Wii Fit: First Impressions

We first got the Wii Fit almost immediately after its release with the intent of it being a Christmas present.  We did not end up unpacking the Wii Fit or setting it up until quite some time later and just now have been using it for three days.

Nintendo’s Wii Fit is a combination of exercise software and the Wii Balance Board accessory.  Wii Fit itself is pretty basic and is not a game as many people probably believe that it is.  The Balance Board is actually a very advanced scale that connects wirelessly to the Nintendo Wii and tracks not only total weight but also the placement of weight upon the scale.

First, the scale.  The Balance Board works great, even on carpeting.  We compared weights measured on it in our living room on thick carpeting versus weights measured on a regular bathroom scale on linoleum and the weights were exactly the same.  The balance aspect of the board works well too with it being quite responsive.  I am sure that it would work even more accurately on a harder surface but on the carpet it does just fine.  The scale is attractive and works well in our living room.  It easily slides under furniture so that it is out of the way while not in use.

Secondly, Wii Fit itself.  Wii Fit turned out to be a more interesting fitness program than I had anticipated.  It has two modes, one for tracking your weight and BMI progress and one for being your personal trainer doing balance, cardio and strength training.  The “game” even teaches you some basic yoga.

I enjoy doing the exercises with the Wii Fit.  It is easy to use and does interesting workouts that you would normally not do at home.  Having the handy in-game trainer stepping you through things makes it feel more interactive and the exercises have cute visualizations to make them more enjoyable.  For example, when jogging in place your jogging actually propels a rendered jogger forward through a three dimensional terrain which helps you to pass the time while keeping you motivated.

One of the most useful tools of the Wii Fit is its record keeping.  You can weight in every day or every few days and have the balance board automatically weight you and chart your weight and BMI progress along with tracking goals.  By making the process of weighing in and keeping track so easy it really encourages you to do it every day.  Seeing progress on a graph makes it easy to quickly tell how you are doing.

Something that was really smart with Wii Fit was the ability to install the Wii Fit channel directly to your Wii menu.  You cannot use this channel for your training, that requires the Wii Fit disc to be in the drive, but you can use this channel to do your daily weigh in.  So all you have to do is to turn on the Wii, stand on the scale and turn it back off.  No looking for the disc, switching discs from what the kids are playing, etc.  Nice and easy to encourage you to do it every day.

What currently we are waiting for is additional games to be released that will take advantage of the Wii Balance Board.  It is an expensive accessory and it would be nice if it had some extra uses.  At this time there are a total of nine titles (plus Wii Fit itself) that can make use of the balance board but, unfortunately, they are almost exclusively the “third party dump” titles (the stuff that is dumped to the Wii that was deemed unfit for the more serious consoles in the hopes of duping the gullible casual gamer market) and Wii Music (widely reviewed as the worst game of 2008 even though it is a Nintendo published title.)  So the lineup is weak to say the least and several of those titles only support the board as an afterthought and not as a core game feature.  The one really notable exception is Shaun White Snowboarding: Road Trip which is supposed to be a lot of fun.  We are planning to get that and try it out.

Coming out soon and quite anticipated is EA Sports Active which is a competitor for the Wii Fit program but is designed to take advantage more of the controllers than of the balance board but it will support the balance board as well.  We should see that exercise title in about two months.

What I am interested to see is some games release that really doing something innovative with the balance board – using it in real gameplay for something other than skiing or snowboarding titles which are simply too obvious and, at this point, very well covered.

So far the Wii Fit is fun and with its recent $50 price drop it is not a bad buy for most people.  If you are looking for a way to get some exercise in a fun, original way then check it out.

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